Blackened Red Snapper

While I was very excited about trying “typical Dominican food”, the truth is that it left me a little disappointed. Fortunately, I booked a hotel with a kitchen in Las Terrenas; a small fishing village turned low-key beach destination. I bought the fish right on the beach where the fishing boats haul up, and cooked up an amazing blackened red snapper. An entire snapper cost me just $5.50. An amazing 5-stars dinner.

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I adapted Chris Kimball’s 2007 recipe for Blacked Snapper on the grill, and used the traditional stove-top cooking method. While I didn’t have a cast iron skillet for this recipe, I used the heaviest pan that I had available and it turned out fantastic. By far my best meal in Dominican Republic.

My final destination in Dominican Republic is Bayahibe, a small town bordering the National Park Del Este. Bayahibe is the best place to catch a boat to the island of Saona (part of the national park with amazing beaches), but to snorkel it’s better to drive the 10km into La Romana and catch a daily boat to Catalina Island. Bayahibe has me breaking my self-imposed rule to avoid “all-inclusive” resorts. Normally, I vastly preferring to stay in small hotels where I am “Mr. Mark”, and not “Room 1428”. Also I prefer to look for my own restaurants with individually cooked meals rather than mass-cooked, catering-style meals that are specifically formulated to appeal to non-adventurous palates. But the independent hotels here all looked a bit shabby, and it’s only for a few days.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, and the descriptions of how I prepared the fish today is as follows:

2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 red snapper fillets, 3/4″ thick

  1. Mix together paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, salt, and peppers in a small bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10″ to 12″ non-stick skillet over medium burner. When the foam begins to subside, bloom the spice mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently until the spices become dark rust in color. Allow the mixture to cool on a pie plate for about 10 minutes. Break up any large clumps of spices using a fork.
  2. Use paper towels to pat the fish dry on both sides, and make shallow diagonal slashes on the skin side of fish with a sharp knife every 1″; but be careful not to cut into the flesh of the fish. The slashes will prevent the fish from curling during cooking.
  3. Working with the fish on a large plate or rimmed baking sheet, rub spice mixture with your fingers in thin layer on both sides of the fish. Put fish in refrigerator until ready to cook.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a heavy skillet, and pre-heat until very hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add fish filets, meat-side down and cook until very dark brown and skin is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip fish and continue to cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until the second side becomes dark brown. The fish should begin to flake, and center is opaque but still moist, about 5 minutes longer.
  5. Serve immediately.
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